Tiny Epic Dungeons is a 1-4 player co-operative dungeon crawler that plays in 30-60 minutes. Well, the box says it takes that long, but I’ve found it’s more like 30-60 minutes per player. As with the other games in the Tiny Epic line up, the whole game fits in a very tiny box. And as with many of the other Tiny Epic games released recently, Tiny Epic Dungeons is a way bigger game than the box would lead you to believe at first glance.
The game is played over two acts: The Dungeon and the Dungeon Boss. It features a modular dungeon that is unique with each play – very reminiscent of the layout/exploration style in Betrayal at House on the Hill. The heroes in the dungeon spend the first act exploring the dungeon by expending speed to flip cards in a 7×7 grid. In the dungeon, you’ll find enemies, portals, and traps, which must be dealt with. Eventually, this exploration will culminate in act two, when you find the Dungeon Boss.
As you explore the dungeon in Tiny Epic Dungeons, the map expands from a central dungeon entrance card to orthogonally laid-out cards that start face down. Based on a set speed, the characters can explore each room until they find a dead end or an enemy. Occasionally they may come across traps, which require a skill check to pass or disarm.
I’m a big fan of this type of exploration because it forces the board to change with each play. Instead of a set map for each game, you create a new map with every playthrough. It also means that literally, every card flip is a surprise – will there be a monster to fight? A deadly trap to disarm? Or just a hallway, ready to pass through? Making sure to orient the cards strategically whenever possible to allow for the whole dungeon to be explored easily is also a fun challenge. One of the several ways heroes can lose the game is if you run out of available pathways to explore prior to locating the Boss’s lair.
There are 8 heroes available in Tiny Epic Dungeons, all of which come with a player mat and a matching mini. Unfortunately, the minis are all very tiny and grey, so you really need to pay attention to your character’s stance and weapons as you play. Or you can just accidentally play as your friends at the table repeatedly, as I do.
The characters all have Health and Focus (ie mana) of varying levels, which are spent in battle and when re-rolling dice or using powers. Each hero is also given a set speed and defense, in addition to a number of dice that may be rolled for Strength, Agility, and Intellect rolls.
The heroes are all fairly well balanced, and the instructions say to either pick a hero at random or choose one from the collection. I really don’t like going into a fight without a good team though. It seems ill-advised to blast into a dungeon with nothing but healers, or with only one type of fighter.
As you fight your way through the dungeon’s many Goblins, Minions, and traps, your character will lose health. Thankfully all you need to combat loss of health points is a nice rest. This is another aspect of Tiny Epic Dungeons I really appreciate – not being able to die unless the whole group loses the game. Sure you may miss a turn as an unconscious fellow awaiting revival or rest, but at least you’re not completely out of the game every time you get into a nasty sword fight with a Goblin.
There are also different levels of opponents in the game, so the weaker fighters can still help out in a fight sometimes. The Goblins throughout the dungeon are usually just an inconvenient menace. They all have 1 health and so if you get through their defense they die, although if they do hit you back first they can pack a wallop. There are also Minions (one per player) that pop up on certain cards. Those are more difficult to kill and may take a few heroes and some legendary armor to beat. I like the two levels of foe in the game – it adds a little spice to fight something new around every corner!
The dungeon is a very dangerous place – filled with lots of ways to lose the game and only one way to win. I do love a challenge, but wow, there are just a lot of things trying to kill you in this place. In addition to the Goblins, Minions, and traps within the dungeon, there’s a Torch Track steadily ticking down the turns to your doom. If you can’t keep the map open enough to continue exploring until you find the Boss’s lair, you lose. And then, of course, there’s Act Two, with a Boss trying to end your heroic journey.
The Boss is a tough fight and one that you must fight after a fatiguing battle just to get there. Before you can actually fight the Boss and begin Act Two, all Minions must have been defeated. Then, the Torch Mat flips to a new side, and Altar Markers are placed throughout the dungeon where each Minion Encounter Card was found.
As you fight the new Boss, even more Goblins will spawn while you try and drag the Boss to each Altar. One more interesting part of the Boss mechanics is that you can’t actually damage it past a certain point unless it’s been through a room (or two or three) with an Altar. So throughout Act Two, you’re sort of running around taunting this big Boss while smacking it around a little. No real damage can land until you get the Boss into the right rooms though. It’s a big game of cat and mouse, and it’s a lot of fun!
My issues with Tiny Epic Dungeons are purely about looks. I want it to be bigger and I want it to have colored minis. Overall, this is a high-quality game filled with variety and intrigue. I love the replay value offered with the modular board, characters, and enemies. Even our first playthrough, which took 3+ hours (not at all the 30-60 minutes advertised) was fun the whole way through! This is a game that feels like it should be a way larger than it is – you might even call it… epic.
I’d like to thank Gamelyn Games for sending me this copy to review!